Discectomy surgery — open spine vs. minimally invasive procedures

A discectomy surgery is used to remove a small portion of or the entire damaged disc in the spine in order to relieve pressure on an impacted nerve root in the spinal canal. This procedure is often used to treat patients with degenerative disc disease, bulging disc or herniated disc.

For many patients, a discectomy surgery is suggested after several months of enduring chronic neck or back pain with no relief from nonsurgical treatments, such as physical therapy or pain medication. If you are suffering from debilitating pain and you have been recommended to undergo spine surgery to treat your damaged disc, you should take a moment to review the two main types of spine surgery: traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery.

While both types of discectomy surgery aim to remove the damaged disc and decompress the pinched nerve root, the approach to the spine is vastly different, resulting in one highly invasive traditional discectomy and one minimally invasive discectomy.

Open spine discectomy

Several decades ago, an open discectomy surgery would have been the only option for a patient requiring surgical treatment for a herniated or bulging disc. Traditional open discectomies are considered highly invasive because they require:

  • Large incisions in the neck or back
  • The disruption and detachment of muscles and other soft tissue
  • The removal of an entire intervertebral disc
  • Spinal fusion using bone grafts, screws, rods and other implants
  • Hospitalization
  • A lengthy and grueling recovery

Once the surgeon reaches the spine through the large, muscle-tearing incision in the back, the surgeon will remove the damaged disc and fuse together the two surrounding vertebrae using a metal cage and screws. This creates stability in the spine, but also results in very limited mobility in that area of the spine and a higher risk of complications if the body rejects the metal inserts.

Minimally invasive discectomy

With advancements in technology, minimally invasive discectomy surgery is possible. What’s unique about these minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute is that they involve:

  • A small incision in the neck or back
  • The insertion of small telescoping tubes that gradually push — not cut — soft tissue apart until reaching the affected disc
  • Shorter recovery time^
  • No hospitalization

After the surgeon makes a small incision in the back and accesses the spine, the damaged disc is replaced with an artificial disc and/or bone grafts. This allows the spine to stabilize, while still resulting in the natural movement of the spine after surgery. Our minimally invasive discectomy stabilization surgery offers lower risks and higher patient satisfaction scores than traditional discectomy and fusion surgery.

To find out if you’re a candidate for a minimally invasive discectomy surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our expert surgeons have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain.